Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Damn good Dahl

We ♥ dahl in our family. It is the one dish I make and probably have made more than any other in my cooking 'career'. Dahl is one of those things that you really don't need a recipe for. You follow the basic formula, make your own adjustments and presto, just like magic, you have a wonderful lentil or moong dahl soup waiting to be gobbled.

The secret to a good dahl is the tarka, What is a tarka you might say? The tarka is the lovely oil tempered with spices that goes into your soup. You also need something a bit tangy, like amchur powder (mango powder) or tamarind or even a tomato powder. There are too many variations here to mention so I will work with the one I made last night. I admit, I did not measure... I 'eyeballed' - this should be pretty close. **** Do not substitute a curry powder for any of the spices below.

Red Lentil Dahl
  1. Rinse in cold water 1.5 cups red lentils. Rinse several times. Add 4 cups of cold fresh water to the lentils and put on to stove. Add 1.5 tsp. salt and add 3/4 tsp. turmeric. Set pot on high heat, once boiling, turn down to a simmer.
  2. Let simmer for 25 minutes. Add another cup of water to simmering lentils and return to a simmer.
  3. Make tarka. Melt over medium heat, 2 TBS Ghee and 1 TBS Coconut oil in sautee pan. Add 1 TBS black mustard seeds to the oil. As soon as seeds start to sputter. Add in your heaping TBS of cumin seeds, 1 TBS ground coriander, and 10 curry leaves. Sautee quickly as the spices can burn very quickly in the hot oil.  Add 1 chopped tomato to oil as well as well as 2 crushed garlic cloves. Let tomatoes soften and stir constantly so the spices do not burn.
  4. Add tarka to the simmering lentils. IT makes a wonderful sizzling noise as the hot tarka enters the simmering lentils. Stir lentils, taste for salt and add 1 TBS tomato powder/amchur/tamarind to tarten up the dahl. Add fresh ground black pepper.  Let dahl simmer on low with the spices for 5 minutes and then turn off head and let sit for at least 15 minutes with the cover on. This soups flavor really takes off after about 15 minutes.
  5. You may add any dried or fresh hot pepper to the tarka. This can add some wonderful depth to the soup itself.
  6. Chop 1 large handful of cilantro. Serve on top of soup along with raita. Recipe for raita follows.  
 Yogurt Raita
  1. 2 Cups plain organic yogurt. Seven Stars is our favorite or Nancy's.
  2. 1/3 cup of FINELY sliced yellow or white onion, I mean FINELY. 
  3. 1 TBS ground cumin and coriander. Start with less and then add more to taste.
  4. 1 tsp. good salt. We use pink salt. Add more if needed
  5. Fresh ground pepper to taste
  6. You can add sliced cucumber as well although I tend to enjoy just this plain one for adding into dahls.
  7. Stir all ingredients and let sit so the yogurt will mellow out the onions. Let sit at least 15 minutes or can be made ahead of time.


  1. okay, help me out here. Two times I have tried to make yellow lentil dal, and the lentils NEVER get soft. Literally all day. I even bought fresh ones, and didn't add anything while I waited for them to soften. Never happened. Help?

  2. Purchase red lentils at the coop... they may be called split red lentils. Yellow lentils are different. (they are actually split peas and often mislabeled) and you are correct - never get soft - annoying unless you cook for hours. Purchase split moong dal or red lentils - this will work and you will have smooth dahl/dal. Moong dal makes a lovely yellow and red lentils give you orangey yellow. I know you can get both at Willy Street. Do not purchase moon dal if it is not split... takes too long. Go for the split♥ It is in the last 10 minutes, after you add tarka that your soup will turn creamy -

  3. Thanks!! Next rainy day I will try it.


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